True Beauty: Pageant Gives Special Needs Women Moment To Shine


We live in a world where perfection is expected. You can filter your social media photos to crop out any imperfections. We’re fixated on the beautiful celebrities and their bodies and fashion. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as the saying goes. One pageant doesn’t focus on the appearances of the contestants. It was specifically created for women with special needs to showcase their inner light.

The You Are Beautiful Pageant held at the Anderson civic center in South Carolina is like most other pageants. Women of all ages scurry to dress up in their finest fanciest gowns. There are hair and makeup to be done. Friends and family wait anxiously in the audience for the contestants to strut their stuff on the runway.

Posted by Special Olympics Area 14 on Friday, February 2, 2018

There’s one characteristic that makes this pageant different: It seeks to show those with special needs they matter. One of the creators of the pageant, Raegan McCullough, spoke to the contestants. “This is because you are worthy of it,” she said.

“This is because you were born for the spotlight. You have this inner light inside of you.”

This inner light could be seen throughout the entire evening. From the rehearsal where the contestants practiced their runway walks and poses, flouncing down the hallways backstage to the actual show itself. Their inner light shone through, reaching to all corners of the room.

Kathleen Stoller, one of the contestants, couldn’t contain her excitement: “I’m so happy,” she said.

She loves Disney princesses; she couldn’t wait to be transformed into a royal for the pageant.

Pageant participants sparkle and shine in special show

Pageant participants sparkle and shine in special show

Posted by WYFF News 4 on Thursday, February 1, 2018

Stoller became a princess as she made her way to the runway; she held out her dress in true princess fashion. Her inner beauty shone through as she twirled and moved across the stage. You can see the joy in her motions.

There were many young ladies representing different disabilities. Some were in wheelchairs. They were turning circles showing off their colorful gowns; some blew kisses to the audience. Their escorts weren’t shabby either in their tuxedos.

Families and friends packed the audience. They encouraged the contestants with claps and cheers. It was their day; a day for the women on stage to feel pretty, important and proud.

Unlike other pageants where there are few winners, everyone who participated won. Stoller won the award for best Runway Diva. Awards were also handed out for Best Runway Eyes, Miss Photogenic, and Best Hair. For the grand finale, the Queens were led out on to the red carpet for a fun photo opp.

What a fantastic feel-good event! It’s rare for those with special needs to have this opportunity to shine. I imagine the ending of this day was one many didn’t want to see an end to. After all, it was a day where real beauty won the hour.